reclamation song

Reclamation Song

By Jhilmil Breckenridge

May 2018

Available at

Reclamation Song Cover I

Language assaults my body. I bleed

rivers, wading through my own blood.

I cry; my single cry echoes the cries

of a hundred sisters, huddled, waiting.

In this confident debut, Jhilmil Breckenridge conjures up a revelling of being truly alive, and explores mortality through experiences of homelessness, trauma, poverty and more. It offers an insight into a woman’s mind, indeed all womanhood, as she reclaims her feminine power. This is a song for India, for women, and for the marginalised.

Shortlisted for the RL Poetry Award 2017


Introduced by Keki N Daruwalla


Jhilmil Breckenridge’s poetry is honest and moving; it is the work of a ‘poet on the run’ who stops to smell the flowers. There is depth, sensitivity and a deep awareness of the horrors of the modern world. This is the work of a woman, who, forged by fire, has come out stronger, and reclaimed herself. Her poems, with their striking imagery, are deceptively simple and speak to the heart, but she is also a poet of sensuousness and subtlety. These poems linger long after one has read the book.

Menka Shivdasani, author of Frazil


The poems in this collection are driven by a direct and fearless gaze which explores the role of women in both Afghanistan, India and the UK and refuses to look away. Wide-ranging and ambitious, they weave together the personal, political and the social to examine the role of power and violence in relationships and society. In a poem, where a window becomes a way of looking at the world and the self, Jhilmil Breckenridge writes ‘The window asks me to be present/to witness’. She answers this calling throughout this collection, wielding intricate imagery with an accomplished use of form to create a rich and moving collection.

Kim Moore, author of The Art of Falling


These haunting poems use women’s concrete and specific experiences of love, loss and motherhood, including the poet’s own, with a rare candour. Jhilmil dares to step into the dark depths of a woman’s mind, a mostly devalued and politicised area, where sexuality separated from procreation by a patriarchal society, creates a strange zone with long buried feelings about families and a dual sense of power and powerlessness.

Mrinal Pande, author of Daughter’s Daughter


The hard-won poise of these poems is a tribute to the redemptive power of language, of art. Lurking not too far beneath the well-wrought surface of these poems, threaded through elegance and high-stepping grace of language, there is a sense of existential risk, a lived experience of danger that takes these poems well beyond the timid angst of contemporary poetry. It is that which renders their achieved sense of control, ultimately, so moving.

Alok Rai, author of Hindi Nationalism


This is poetry that sings, laughs and cries in the voice of mother, citizen, outcast, daughter. Poetry that recognises what it is to be a stranger at home, and at home in a far away country. Poetry that holds pain in its gaze and refuses to turn away. These are poems that long for peace and insurrection. There is some brave, honest and beautiful writing here, framed by paintings in the poet’s own hand.

Cheryl Moskowitz, author of The Girl is Smiling


This is iridescent poetry, of the taste of tears, of rage at hate, of amnesia and remembering, of love and loss, of elegies and hyper-life, of wildness and calm, and always of the light that comes through. A stunning burst of talent, that unsettles and captivates.

Harsh Mander, author of Looking Away


Manan Kapoor in The Wire

In her fierce words, Breckenridge has captured multiple worlds, identities, and experiences. In The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, José Saramago wrote, “The great difference between poets and madmen is the destiny of the madness that possesses them,” and Breckenridge’s ‘madness’ is destined for greatness and will get all the accolades that it deserves. Jhilmil Breckenridge is a poet, writer, and activist. She is the founder of Bhor Foundation, a mental health charity. Her areas of work are mental health, domestic violence, and trauma. Jhilimil is currently working on a PhD in the UK, and Reclamation Song is her first book of poetry.

Read the complete Review ‘Poetry Where Death Turns Into an Easy Motif’ in The Wire.

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Poornima Laxmeshwar interviews Jhilmil Breckenridge on Reclamation Song and more in Cafe Dissensus Everyday:

PL: Do you think that all your personal betrayals, hardships have sharpened your perspective and made you a better poet?

Jhilmil: In one word, yes! Pain transforms a person and some people just wilt or go under, but some shine. In my case, I used pain as sandpaper on my soul – perhaps a curiosity to see what was under all the layers of pain, betrayal, abandonment, emotional and physical. But I would not wish these personal betrayals and hardships on anyone else just to become a better poet. There must be easier ways! And in my own case also, I sometimes yearn to be weak, to be looked after, but then laugh it off because I do not have an option but to be the way I am.

Read the full interview A conversation with poet and activist, Jhilmil Breckenridge in Cafe Dissensus Everyday.

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Soni Somarajan review’s Jhilmil Breckenridge’s in Kitaab

The 55 poems in Reclamation Song are anything but ‘let it be light, it should float’ kind that Jhilmil aspires to, because the personal tragedy and anguish – the crux anchoring this collection – is of an enormous scale. The verse may be light but the effect is anything but floating, the weight of angst becoming our own – threatening to undo the objectivity of a review. For a debut collection, it has everything going for it – including a glowing introduction by the Master himself, Keki Daruwalla, who terms it ‘solid poetry grounded in pain’. Also, add a cluster of luminous blurbs from the who’s who in the world of letters.

Read the complete review ‘Reclaiming the Power of the Feminine’ in

Page Turner Pune Mirror 4 October 2018

Reclamation Song featured in ‘Page Turner’ section of Pune Mirror on 4 October 2018.


Abha Iyengar reviews Jhilmil Breckenridge’s Reclamation Song in Arts Illustrated.


Jhilmil Breckenridge’s new book of poetry, Reclamation Song, was just released in May 2018. Barnali Ray Shukla, filmmaker and writer, lived with the book for a few weeks and several questions emerged. Here are Jhilmil and Barnali in conversation about the book, its themes, and how Jhilmil came to be the confessional poet she is.

Read the complete interview at


Jhilmil Breckenridge talks extensively about RECLAMATION SONG, poetry, mental health and more in a detailed interview with Shelly Bhoil in Setu, a bilingual journal published from Pittsburgh, USA.

I am currently working on editing a version of ‘Reclamation Song’ for the UK market; it has been accepted by a poetry publisher, and I am working on tightening it up, adding some work, perhaps removing some very India-centric work, which may not speak to a global audience. In addition, I continue to write and read constantly. There are two themes I may try and put a collection together for soon — one is a collection of my nature poems, and the other is poems that reflect on the theme that can you be a mother if your sons are not around, that does the absence of children stop you from being maternal or being a mother.
Read the complete interview, Metamorphosizing Problems into Potential through Poetry, in Setu.